Friday, March 28, 2008

Reconciling Universal Redemption with Limited Decree to Save

I had asked:
How is purchasing a redemption for both believers and non-believers consistent with decreeing to save only believers?

Dan (aka Godismyjudge), at Arminian Chronicles replied (link to Dan's reply):

1) the decree to save believers should not be understood as foreknowledge of individual believers (i.e. Sue and John, but not Robbie), but rather the formula that anyone who believes shall be saved

2) that decree was preceded by a decree that Christ, by His death, shall be the basis of salvation (this decree can't be limited to the elect, because is explanatorily prior to the decree of election)

3) the decree regarding Christ's death means salvation is possible for everyone through Christ's death

I answer:

I don't find Dan's answer very clear, partly because he uses words that either have different meanings to him than to me or have no standard meaning (such as "foreknowledge" and "explanatorily"). Allow me to try to explain Dan's position for him.

As to (1-2), it seems to me that Dan is trying to say that the decree to purchase redemption for mankind universally was a first decree, and that a decree to apply that redemption to the class of believers was a second decree, and that God's advance knowledge of who would be members of that class follows the second decree. I think that by "explanatorily prior" Dan means what we call "logically prior." Thus, we should not read a temporal sequence into the order.

I hope that if I have misunderstood Dan, he will correct my misunderstanding. Assuming I have correctly understood him:

a) The order seems purposeless or at cross purposes;
b) For example, the first decree seems to be aimed at a purpose to save mankind universally, whereas the second decree seems to be aimed (at least in part) in saving mankind only partially;
c) The attempted escape is to place God's advance knowledge of the membership of the class of believers posterior to the second decree, but
d) It doesn't seem credible that God would make the second decree without first knowing whether it would save anyone, because He Himself is bound by His own decrees.
e) Another attempted escape might be to argue that the first decree was only aimed at making all men savable, but
f) A similar criticism arises that the second decree still seems counter to the first decree by providing a barrier to the savability of men, and
g) There is a real question about whether there is any Scriptural basis for an intent to make mankind "savable," as distinct from "saved."

Thus, it does not really seem that (1-2) of Dan's reply help resolve the apparent conflict, or - at best - they simply move the conflict someplace else.

As to (3), it seems that "the decree" referenced is supposed to be the first decree. This would seem to begin to take escape (e) discussed above. Additionally, since the first decree does not include any decree for application of the benefit of Christ's death, it actually does not mean "salvation is possible for everyone through Christ's death." In fact, it does not mean that salvation is possible for anyone at all, since it does not include any way for the benefit of Christ's death to be applied to men.

Alternatively, "the decree" in (3) might be aimed at pointing to the second decree. If so, then the same criticism from (f) as well as (d) above would apply. A decree to save those who fit within a formula is inherently discriminatory, with the formula being the discriminator. Unless there is some kind of expectation that everyone would fall within the formula (which apparently, per (3), there was not) then the formula does not mean "salvation is possible for everyone through Christ's death."

Indeed, one could (though why they would, I have no idea) insert between Dan's second decree and the advance knowledge a recognition of human total inability to meet the formula. Then, it becomes clear that a decree that Jesus die for everyone (in the abstracted way Dan posits in his first decree) is not sufficient to make "salvation is possible for everyone through Christ's death."

I'm guessing that Dan's ultimate order would look something like this:

1. Decree to create.
2. Recognition of the fall.
3. Decree that Christ will die.
4. Decree that Christ's death will be applied to those who have faith.
5. Decree that it will be "possible" for anyone to have faith.
6. Recognition of who actually has faith.

Embedded within (5) would be a decree to give all men prevenient grace, or something like that.

There are a number of problems with this expanded order, though.

(a) The idea of creating without having the purpose of the creation mind already seems odd. One pictures the person in Dan's order saying to himself, "So I've got this creation, what should I do with it?"

(b) The idea of the fall being something that is only recognized once there is a decree to create does not seem fully consistent with God's omniscience. Even if this could be escaped by middle knowledge, though ...

(c) The idea of the knowledge of who will believe being recognized somehow separately from the fall does not seem fully consistent either with God's omniscience or middle knowledge.

In short, I'm not sure how Dan's explanation doesn't just make matters worse for the Arminian or Amyraldian.



Anonymous said...

Hi TF!

I am particularly interested in Dan's reply to this.
Any way possible to have the debate, if it continues, in the comments, or somewhere else centralized? Switching from blog to blog is annoying.

With love,

GeneMBridges said...

Traditionally, there are two thinking processes at work for positing orders of decrees:

Telelogical (as in Supalapsarianism)

Historical (as in Infralapsarianism).

Of the traditional orders, it's generally recognized that all orders but Supra are historical in nature.

So, Dan's argument seems faulty insofar as he seems to be positing God thinking in possibilities at some points and recognizing historical events in others.

For example:

To recognize the Fall is to recognize a historical event. But how does God foresee indeterminate objects of knowledge without them instantiating in an actual universe? Middle Knowledge won't do, since none of the universes instantiated actualize until AFTER God has chosen the one that He will instantiate. Appealing to "timelessness" won't do, since on MK, no universe is actually instantiated before God choses the one universe that will be instantiated,so that undoes the "Simple Foreknowledge" view. In other words, any decree to recognize the fall as a historical reality will pull apart at least one, if not both, of the standard views on divine foreknowledge to which Arminians appeal.

So, at most, God can only decree to recognize the *possibliity* of the Fall, which is consistent with "bare" permission, but when we talk about "possibilities" we have to answer another question: "How" (and Why) is God decreeing in "possibilities" and not actualities, when God, according to Non-Open Theistic Arminianism, actually knows these outcomes already, since they are fixed? I suspect this is why many modern Arminians don't like to talk about the decree to permit the fall and punt to Calvinism instead.

>>>1) the decree to save believers should not be understood as foreknowledge of individual believers (i.e. Sue and John, but not Robbie), but rather the formula that anyone who believes shall be saved

But wouldn't that eventually get us to a decree to recognize those who believe in Christ and consequent to their faith elect them? So, Dan is secretly positing what he denies (the foreknowledge of individual believers) this decree should mean. Dan believes God infallibly knows who these people are. That would, therefore, be the recognition of a historical reality. What is the purpose of decree a formula for the salvation of those who believe? That infers a telelogical purpose lies behind the order, but if the decree to recognize those who believe and elect them (which is going to be unavoidable eventually) is involved that's the recognition of a historical event.

If we get to a telelogical order, then what's the ultimate purpose to the order? Is it to manifest His glory? And if that's the purpose, then what is the main means to that end? The election of a people to Himself? That would be remarkably Supralapsarian argument. Is it to manifest His love? That's a classic Infralapsarian response (and Amyraldian and Arminian). Well, what's the means? Is it the election of a people? If so, then that's a remarkably Supralapsarian teleology. Indeed, that's what Supras have always argued with Infras.

Turretinfan said...

Teleological is, I think, the correct spelling. For those who are reading who are less familiar with theology, the term refers to purpose, ends, objects, goals, and the like.

A wise plan is a teleological plan according to:

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?


Paul Carpenter said...


On 28-March-2008 you commented on Dan’s reply and in doing so you quoted Dan’s reference to a Divine decree to save all believers; namely,
“1) the decree to save believers should not be understood as foreknowledge of individual believers (i.e. Sue and John, but not Robbie), but rather the formula that anyone who believes shall be saved.”

The problem with this “decree” is that it has no Biblical support; it can’t be located anywhere in the Scriptures either explicitly or implicitly. So maybe this so-called “decree” is merely wishful thinking or imagination on Dan’s part, but in any case, the Scriptures teach that the primary Cause of salvation is God’s election before creation and not the act of believing i.e. trusting in Christ.

Although it’s true that salvation is by faith in Christ, plus saving repentance, the Bible teaches that saving repentance and saving faith are both the gifts of God. Thus if God doesn't gives these two essential gifts, repenting and believing unto salvation will not occur and cannot ever do so.

Dan’s imaginative and Man-centered “decree” makes me wonder if he has objections to the Biblical teachings that God has always had absolute sovereignty throughout the entire salvation process.


Turretinfan said...

Paul wrote: "The problem with this “decree” is that it has no Biblical support; it can’t be located anywhere in the Scriptures either explicitly or implicitly."

I agree.